Cashing in on social media
Facebook is finalising plans to launch its own crypto-currency next year and pioneers in the sector believe the move will bring more devotees to the banking disruptors and make FinTech a mainstream payment choice.
The social media giant is planning to set up a digital payments system in about a dozen countries by the first quarter of 2020, as highlighted on GDN-online, the popular portal of our sister newspaper.
A new digital payments system would be launched in about a dozen countries, starting early next year, the BBC reported on its website.
Previous reports have said Facebook has been taking a serious look at block chain technology under its Project Libra, in part to tackle doubts about privacy among its many users following a series of scandals.
But the targetted date appears new. The BBC said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg met Bank of England governor Mark Carney last month to discuss the opportunities and risks involved in launching a crypto-currency, plus officials at the US Treasury.
Facebook’s currency, which has been referred to internally as GlobalCoin, would be a digital unit pegged to the dollar in contrast to more anarchic means of virtual payment such as bitcoin.
With more than two billion users across its platforms, which include WhatsApp and Instagram, Facebook could have the clout to take a crypto currency mainstream, analysts’ suggest.
Garrick Hileman, a researcher at London School of Economics, said the GlobalCoin project could be one of the most significant events in the short history of crypto-currencies. Conservatively, he estimated that around 30 million people use crypto-currencies today. That compares to Facebook’s 2.4 billion monthly users.
Entrepreneur Jamal Al Mutawa, the man behind the only live crypto-currency automated teller machine (ATM) in the MENA region, couldn’t agree more.
“It will bring practical awareness to many more people about crypto-currencies, their use and convenience,” he said. “If Facebook does it right, it will also set the standard for a more friendly, easier user experience, right now the crypto wallets are all right but might scare or confuse some people.
“I see it similar to the introduction of the Web Browser that opened the internet to everyone-else, when previously it was an area only for academics and some corporations.”
The Crypto ATM from Basket SPC at Bahrain FinTech Bay, inside the Arcapita Building, allows people to buy and sell crypto-currencies or coins using cash.
Jamal, a former business support systems / operations support systems director at Zain Group, said that although his new business was still in the Central Bank of Bahrain’s ‘sandbox process’, he is confident that once the bank sees the operation as ‘competent and following the conditions set forth by the CBB’, Basket will be allowed to operate in Bahrain, as reported in FinTech Focus.
“Distribution is a challenge especially for the unbanked,” he said. “A crypto ATM is the perfect on-boarding tool for the unbanked or small amounts.”
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Stanley Louis Szecowka
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